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Festivals and Special Occasions

Sikh festivals are divided into two categories.

Gurpurabs: celebrations related to the Gurus

Jorhmela: meaning gatherings and fun fairs


The Gurpurabs celebrated in western countries are as follow: -

Guru Nanak Dev's birthday, Guru Gobind Singh's birthday, Guru Arjan Dev's martyrdom, Guru Teg Bahadur's martyrdom and the first inauguration day of the Guru Granth Sahib.

In the Gurdwara the celebrations start three days before the event. An Akhand Path (unbroken or continues reading) of Guru Granth Sahib will start at the Gurdwara and many Sikhs will participate in preparing langar, reading the Guru Granth Sahib or Serving food and many more activities in the Gurdwara. Bhog (completion of recitation) takes place on the third day. Sikhs will come to the Gurdwara and listen to recitation and join in the singing of the praise of God. Prayers are said, to thank Guru for his grace and people will join in with Langar and wish everyone well.

Some Gurdwaras will have an evening congregation as well. In this session people sing poems and read poetry. Also some Gurdwaras organise a religious procession through the town during which the Guru Granth Sahib leads the way, while the congregation will follow chanting the hymns.

At home Sikhs will get up early, have a bath and wear new colourful dresses. Some families exchange gifts and visit other family members or friends. There would be a feast of specially prepared food, which would be continued during the day.

Guru Arjan's martyrdom falls in June and the weather is always very hot. Many Sikhs will have stalls serving cold beverages free of charge.

  • Guru Nanak' birthday falls in October/November
  • Guru Gobind Singh's birthday falls in January
  • Guru Granth Sahib inauguration day falls in August/September
  • Guru Argon's martyrdom day falls in June
  • Guru Teg Bahadur's martyrdom falls in November.


Vaisakhi: this falls 14 April and is the first day of the Indian Lunar month called Vaisakh. It is the spring harvest festival of Northwest India. In fact all the Panjabis regardless of their religion celebrate it. This festival was celebrated well before Guru Nanak. After selling their crops and collecting their from merchants they would go and enjoy themselves in Melas (funfairs) or visit friends and relatives. Guru Gobind Singh used this day to form the Khalsa Brotherhood.

A picture of a Vaisakhi procession in Bradford

Diwali: known as the festival light falls in October/November. In India it marks the end of the hot weather. Although Diwali was first celebrated by Guru Amar Dass and then by Guru Arjan as he installed the Adi Granth on Diwali and Amritsar was illuminated in a unique way. On this day Sikhs remember their sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind, who arrived at Amritsar after his release from Gwalior Jail. He was kept there as political prisoner for almost two years. On the Guru's recommendation 52 other Rajas were released along with him. Sikhs remember this as a "Band Chhor" day. Amritsar and Harmandir were illuminated to greet the Guru. Diwali at Amritsar is always recommended.

In England Sikhs illuminate the homes, exchange sweet gifts and have parties along with firework displays. Many Sikhs go to the Gurdwara and light candles and pay their respects to the Sixth Guru. Many Gurdwaras have firework displays after the congregation.

Hola Mohalla: In 1680, Guru Gobind Singh asked his Sikhs not to celebrate the festival of Holi but introduced a festival of Hola Mohalla meaning Attack and the Place of attack. The Guru trained Sikhs in martial arts and military exercises. Hence Hola became a national sports day of the Sikhs. On this day Sikhs all over the world hold tournaments and athletic events. Hola of Anadpur, where this festival was introduced, is highly recommended by the sikhs, the event there lasts three days.